Monthly Archives: January 2013
Today I have for you another figure to review from the 6 figure Beast Saga DX Starter Set. The set contained 2 figures from each of the 3 Beast Saga armies, land, sea and air. The last BS figure I reviewed was the whale from the set and today I’m going to review his aquatic companion, Saga KIller. Normally I name these characters by sticking the word “Saga” in front of whatever species they happen to be. I began to write Saga Killer Whale in the title of this post but stopped after I typed Saga Killer. I think I’m going to leave his name just like that. It’s less cumbersome and sounds pretty badass. It immediately infuses him with some extra personality he wouldn’t have had if I had named him Saga Killer Whale. I’ve also seen him named Olrich on other sites but as of yet I’m still not sure the names floating around on the internet are official.
The two whales were the figures I was most looking forward to getting out of this set. The other four (a wolf, an owl, a parrot, and a panther) are all creatures that were released in the original Battle Beasts line. I hope we get new versions of all of the previously released Battle Beast figures but there’s something exciting about getting brand new beasts that have never been released in this style before. I think that’s one of the reasons that Saga Finch was an early favorite of mine; he was something new.
Saga Whale delivered the goods. I think he was the best figure in the DX Starter Set. Saga Killer unfortunately does not live up to my high expectations. He’s by no means bad but he could have been better. Saga Whale had some really cool nautical themed armor, with boat turbines, surf boards and a whale tail worked into the design. Saga Killer’s armor is pretty dull by comparison. There’s really nothing special to point out about his torso and shoulder armor. Though he too has an armored blow hole on his head which is kind of funny. The lower half of his suit is odd in that it isn’t armor at all. Instead he seems to be sporting a kind of seaweed loin cloth which might work for Mer-Man but kind of misses the mark here. His whole get up is solid blue save for two orange stripes on the shoulders which rescue the armor from being completely dull to look at.
The best and worst thing about the figure is it’s head. The sculpt is simple and smooth and doesn’t require a whole lot of detail to look good. The fin on the head is a good height and a good shape. I really like the sculpted detail in his face, the eyes especially. The issue is with the paint. The head is sculpted in black plastic and the large signature “eye patches” are painted white, just as you’d expect. I just wish the painters hadn’t stopped there. I think the eyes could use a dab of color though after looking at pictures of real killer whales I can let that slide as their eyes do tend to blend into their skin. But why oh why did they not paint the teeth? Saga KIller has a partially open mouth full of jet black teeth and it looks stupid. A teeny little streak of white paint across his mouth would have done so much to enhance this figure. If they had planned on being cheap with the paint they should have sculpted his mouth closed, problem solved.
As far as accessories go Saga Killer comes with a game card, a couple of launching dice and a sword and shield. The shield is kind of weird looking but the sword looks pretty deadly. So while this figure isn’t a perfect ten I still find myself really liking it. He also gets some bonus points for being the first killer whale in the series. 7 out of 10.
In my Darklon review the other day I told you how 1988 was the final year that Doug and I collected the entire wave of G.I. Joe figures released that year. But we were still going pretty strong in 1989 collecting 11 of the 17 carded figures released. Of the 6 we passed on a couple of them, Stalker and Deep-Six, were new versions of characters we already had in our collection so they didn’t seem essential. There were just 4 new characters available that year who we skipped, 3 Joes: Backblast, Scoop and Recoil and 1 Cobra: Frag-Viper.
I’m not sure why we let those 4 figures slip away from us. We were still pretty into Joe at the time. A few of the ’89 Joes are favorites of mine like Heat-Viper, Alley-Viper, and Gnawgahyde. The lamest figure released that year was Dee-Jay and I still got him. Doug and I are both serial collectors who have a hard time not having the complete set of anything so letting a mere 4 new Joes get away from us is very out of character. It just goes to show the power of girls as I imagine that’s where our attention was shifting around this time.
While Backblast, Scoop and Recoil are not bad figures at all they still do little for me when I look at them. They’re all pretty average. But not getting a Frag-Viper, that’s just weird. I loved Cobra Vipers and was thrilled to add new variations to my Cobra army. Between us Doug and I had Ice-Vipers, Motor-Vipers, Strato-Vipers, Gyro-Vipers, Night-Vipers, Secto-Vipers, Hydro-Vipers, Astro-Vipers, Toxo-Vipers, Techno-Vipers, and of course just plain old regular Vipers. Each one specialized in a different field or environment. The Frag-Vipers were grenade throwers. Frag-Viper came with a unique throwing tool inspired by the wacky sport Jai Alai in which athletes hurl a ball around using a similar curved hand basket. It’s a pretty neat concept. Which makes it even weirder that 11 year old me didn’t seek this figure out.
They never made an updated version of the Frag-Viper in the new sculpt or modern sculpt eras and so I never had one. Just before Christmas I was checking out a toy retail website that I visit on a regular basis and they had a bunch of vintage Joes listed at some great prices so I snagged a half dozen of them to add to an order of modern Joes I was purchasing. One of those vintage Joes I picked up was the ’89 Annihilator whom you caught a glimpse of in my 2012 Annihiliator review the other day and another one was the ’89 Frag-Viper.
I figured I might as well finally get this guy seeing as there was no indication that I would be getting a modern version of him anytime soon. He only cost me a couple of bucks which is nice but unfortunately he doesn’t have any of his weapons so I am without a grenade tossing hand basket. While I am happy to finally have this figure I will say that he is pretty lackluster in design. I’m not sure why the Hasbro designers would put such a cool science-fiction inspired helmet on a guy who’s basically wearing a potato sack for a uniform. The head is very cool and looks like some sort of robot bug. Those big black eyes really make the Frag-Viper look unnervingly alien.
I guess Cobra Commander blew his Frag-Viper budget on their helmets because the rest of the outfit really is one of the most abysmal Joe sculpts I’ve ever seen. The shirt and pants have no detail at all other than a bad stitch job down the front of the shirt. No collar, no pockets, nothing. And the color is just gross. And then for some bizarre reason the Frag-Viper is wrapped in a blue sash that seems to serve no purpose at all. It’s just weird.
The reason I decided to review the Frag-Viper today is to give me an excuse to tell you about the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s 2013 Convention set which was revealed this week. Last year’s set featured Destro’s Iron Grenadiers vs Russia’s version of G.I. Joe, the Oktober Guard. The Darklon and Annihilator figures that Vanessa got me for Christmas spun out of that set. Well this year’s theme is the G.I. Joe Night Force Team vs the Cobra Demolitions Team. This set will feature a number of highly anticipated Joe figures being released in the modern style for the first time and will also feature the first modern style Frag-Viper. The new Frag-Viper does a great job of capturing the look of the ’89 version, the good and the bad. The 15 figure box set will contain 3 of these guys so as long as I’m able to get my hands on a set I’ll have gone from having no Frag-Vipers to having a small squad of them. He may be far from the best Viper out there but he’s not too shabby. 4 out of 10.
Today we’re going to take a break from G.I. Joes and Transformers and focus on a more delicious type of hero. This is Mr. Bacon.
I received Mr. Bacon as a stocking stuffer this year from Vanessa..er…I mean Santa Clause. I believe Santa picked this up for me at The Freak Lunchbox, a novelty/candy store in downtown Halifax. It’s a really cool little store that is eternally busy. They have all kinds of retro and European candy, the kind of stuff you can’t pick up just anywhere. They also have a slew of novelty items like whoopee cushions, fake mustaches and bobble heads. I’ve considered buying toys there on a few impulsive occasions but the price usually deters me. Retro tin robots do not come cheap at hipster candy stores.
One toy I almost picked up on a visit there not long ago was Mr. Bacon. He’s bacon, he’s an action figure…what’s not to like? He wasn’t even that expensive but common sense did get the better of me and I left him behind. I’m quickly running out of room to display my Joes and Transformers so I really shouldn’t be padding my man cave with silly novelty items like this guy.
When we were kids, sharing a bedroom, Doug and I would creep out of bed on Christmas morning and retrieve our stockings as early as possible, like 4am. We would tiptoe back downstairs to our room and spend the next couple of hours just enjoying our stockings until the hour came when we were allowed to wake up our parents and begin tackling the serious presents under the tree. There was always an orange in the toe of my stocking (which I never ate) and there were a few sensible items like toothpaste and shampoo in there as well. As far as goodies go, candy canes, marshmallow Santas, and After Eights were all essential. There was usually a magazine, WWF maybe, then SPIN and Transworld Skateboarding in later years. It was not uncommon to get a frustrating puzzle of some sort like a Rubik’s Cube. All of this stuff was great but the stocking toys were the best.
Sometimes G.I. Joes would sneak into our stockings but often times it was was just something silly and random. You can’t get much more silly and random than a man made of bacon so Santa did well this year at capturing that nostalgic Christmas vibe.
I was curious to see if there was any history to this figure so I googled “Archie McPhee” the name on the package and discovered they’re a very large novelty company that make all kinds of those weird little things that I loved as a kid like monster finger puppets and rubber chickens. They actually have a full line of Mr. Bacon products so head on over to the site if you have a bacon aficionado in your life.
I don’t have much to say about the toy itself, it’s bendy, it’s cute, it’s bacon. Generally I like my bacon crispier than this guy appears to be but I won’t hold that against him. 4 out of 10.
Last week I reviewed my new Annihilator figure that Vanessa bought me for my birthday. This here is the other Joe that she got me for my birthday and I must say I was surprised by it. I gave her a list of pricey toys that I was hunting for and there were a couple of Convention exclusive Joe figures on that list. For my birthday last year she got me the Convention exclusive Cobra De Aco which I was thrilled with. She said that she had never seen me so excited. Not that I was jumping up and down or anything but I’m a pretty calm guy generally who keeps his emotions in check. An ear to ear grin is about as much as she’s gonna get out of me. Ever since, she’s been striving to buy me another present capable of producing the same effect. Cobra De Aco is pretty dear to me but if there was a toy on my “want list” this year that might’ve come close it would be Darklon. Now I didn’t want to outright tell her that he was the item on my list that I wanted the most because he is rather expensive and I like the element of surprise.
For Christmas she got me Bruticus, which was excellent but it did leave me curious as to what she might have gotten me for my birthday. I hoped it was Darklon. Now as I told you in my Annihilator post she got me a bunch of stuff for my birthday. Five pairs of funky socks (the only kind I wear), some warm flannel pajama bottoms, multiple bags of candy, Taken 2 on bluray, some booze, and a tablet. That alone would have been plenty. She was handing me presents in the order she wanted me to open them and amidst the socks and candy she handed me a small box which I had pegged for an action figure. I opened it up and it was Annihilator. I was very happy with him and surprised as I didn’t think I would get him but there was that little part of me that was disappointed that he wasn’t Darklon. (I’m a spoiled brat, I know)
Well then I opened the next box with the bluray inside. I pulled it out to admire Mr. Neeson in all his badassery on the cover when I spotted a small bundle of plastic laying at the bottom of the box. It looked to be a loose action figure wrapped snuggly in protective bubble wrap. I noticed the ugly pea green immediately. Is it what I think it is? Could she have? Would she have? She did!!! Darklon was mine to command!
This already seemed like birthday present overkill to me by this point and I hadn’t even opened the tablet yet. Once I opened that bad boy my thoughts quickly became “oh crap. How am I ever going to top this for her birthday?”
So you might be wondering, “ just who is this Darklon character?” And truthfully I can’t tell you a whole lot about him. He’s never been fleshed out in great detail in the cartoons or comics. He’s playing a role in the comics currently being published by IDW so maybe I’ll be able to tell you more about the character at a later date but as of now all I know is he’s a mysterious distant cousin of Destro. He lives in a castle in Europe and he holds a position in Destro’s Iron Grenadier army.
The first, and until now the only, Darklon figure was released in 1989. That was the last year that Doug and I were really into G.I. Joe. 1988 was the last year that we owned everything that came out. We had almost all of the single carded figures that came out in ’89 but we had completely given up on vehicles at that point. I’ve mentioned a few times how I’m not really into vehicles but that wasn’t always the case. I’ve always liked the figures more but the first few years of the Joe toy line produced some amazing vehicles. They were things like tanks, jeeps and helicopters. By 1989 Joe vehicles were wonky and weird looking so I simply couldn’t be bothered with them. We didn’t own any ’89 vehicles and therefore we didn’t own Darklon because he was packaged with the Evader. In 1990 Doug and I only bought one Joe figure each and they were to be out last ones for more than a decade. I got a Joe named Rampart and Doug got an Iron Grenadier frogman named Undertow.
In most cases I have far less passion for figures of characters that I never owned as a child as opposed to those characters that I did . But now and again a character will come along, like Cobra De Aco or Darklon, who seems to have built in nostalgia factor. Opening this Darklon figure last week was the first time I’d ever held this character in my hands but he felt familiar to me. I remember when the original came out and being curious about him even though my overall interest was waning. Destro’s crocodile skinned, red panted, Darth Vader knock-off mask wearing, investment-banker of a cousin struck me as interesting for some reason. I’m certain I would have gotten the original figure had he been available without the vehicle. I would’ve been happy to add him to my collection at any point, considering I’ve been a more avid Joe collector these past 10 years than I ever was as a kid, but the opportunity never presented itself. Like Annihilator, Darklon was ignored during the new sculpt and modern sculpt era…until now. The Collector’s Club released an Iron Grenadiers vs the Oktober Guard themed convention box set in 2012 that finally gave fans new versions of these characters. Unfortunately these convention exclusive Joes are quite expensive. This is again where I recommend you get an awesome girlfriend.
So how is the figure? Not perfect, but pretty darn awesome. As I mentioned in my Annihilator review the Club doesn’t have the resources to make many new parts so they have to creatively use existing pieces. Darklon’s entire body is a repaint of a previously released Firefly figure. It’s not a flawless interpretation of the 1989 mold but it’s not bad. You would never recognize this as the Firefly figure with all of Darklons’ gaudy colors added to the previously solid gray figure. The weapons included with the figure are decent but they don’t stay in his hands very well which is annoying. It makes him tough to pose. Darklon’s unique head couldn’t be faked with existing pieces so the Club splurged for some new tooling and gave us a great new version of the classic Darklon head. I believe the removable shoulder padded web gear is all new as well. I think he looks great. I’m still not sure what the deal is with this guy’s green sweater. I don’t believe it’s actually intended to be crocodile skin like I said earlier but it is odd. the fact that he has green skin showing through his mask and glowing red eyes makes me wonder if there’s supposed to be a supernatural element to this guy. The mystery of it keeps him interesting. A great figure. 9 out of 10.
A while back I reviewed a chunk of wood that I had attempted to carve into the shape of an action figure back in junior high. It was one of my many attempts over the years at creating a custom action figure of one of my original creations. The wood man was an attempt at bringing Ollie to life, a character from my comic book The Boarder Brigade. You may also recall a baked clay custom figure that I made of Chiliwac, the ant character from my comic book Costello Island. A book that I used to self-publish when I was in high school. I won’t rehash my entire comic book making history as you can read most of that in the Ollie post if you’re curious about it but in a nutshell I’ve been creating characters for as long as I can remember; alongside my brother. Doug and I started out making “Marbel” comics in elementary school. Those book consisted of us turning popular Marvel characters into animal versions of themselves, like Iron Man into Iron Cat.
By the time we were tweens we decided to create our own original comic book universe from scratch. We called out new “company” Incredible Comics. The Incredible Universe was similar to the Marvel and DC Universes in that it was populated with human super heroes and villains battling it out in the “real world”. For some reason we set all of our stories in Victoria, British Columbia even though we’d never been there. Each of our comics were 20 pages long. Doug and I each created our own characters and we made our own comics from start to finish. We’d spend hours sitting across from each other at the dining room table doing our own thing. I wrote, drew and colored full issues by myself and Doug did the same. The interaction came in when our books crossed over with one another. We had an established continuity and timeline that we made sure to adhere to. Over the span of a few years Doug and I had created dozens of characters and around 15 books each.
My flagship character was Tiger. He was kind of a cross between Spider-Man and Wolverine. Doug’s flagship character was Lynx and he basically had the exact same powers as Tiger: super strength, super speed, super smell, cat instincts, and claws. We made sure to tie their origin stories together in order to explain the similarities in their powers. Doug created a villain named Catsmaster who was kidnapping drifters and performing cat DNA experiments on them for some reason. Lynx was one such unfortunate drifter. My character, James Rand was just an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of Catsmaster’s irradiated cats, a tiger, got loose and bit James thus granting him Tiger Powers.
I managed to cram a lot of information into that first issue of Tiger. On page 1 he sees a crashed truck and an escaped tiger. On page 2 he’s bit and discovers he has powers. On page 3 he decides to become a super hero and he buys a costume. On page 4 he stops a bank robbery killing 2 bank robbers in the process and he doesn’t bat an eye. Things carry on that way through the special oversized 30 page first issue. Not only is the writing atrocious but the art is pretty ridiculous as well. One thing I find amusing about the issue is I used one of my dinky cars ( which I thought was a generic car) as the model for all the cars in the comic so everybody is driving Camaros.
I’m much prouder of issue two as my drawing and writing skills had improved but it’s still nothing to call home about. In that issue Tiger decides to make a change to his costume. He ditches the tiger head style mask he wore in issue one for a more standard Spider-Man style spandex mask with tiger stripes. I mainly did that so that “readers” would know that he was in fact a human and not some half-man half-tiger dude; that was Marbel territory.
Issue 3 was the last issue of Tiger that I completed and it ended on a cliffhanger. Tiger pays a visit to the city’s crime lords, Paycheck and Afterdeath and they offer him a bundle of money to start working for them. Did he take the money? Well it’s been nearly 20 years already so I think I can let that plot thread dangle a little longer.
Anyway, I better get on with this toy review. Andrew bought me an action figure customizing kit for my birthday. It included 3 bodies, 5 different types of heads, 3 capes and some alternate hands. It also included paints and brushes and a sheet of stickers. When I unwrapped this present I knew immediately that I would be tackling some of my Incredible heroes as they are still near and dear to me.
There was one fully masked face that I knew I would use for Tiger. I thought I’d better practice on another figure first as I didn’t want to f**k up my main character. There was a Captain America style half-masked face which I thought would work well on my villain “The Skunk”. Skunk used toxic gases to subdue his enemies. He first appeared in Pulsar issue 1 but reemerged in Tiger issue 3. He attempts to use knock-out gas to capture Tiger but our hero takes him out with a shot to the gut.
I painted Skunk’s head and body separately and they both turned out pretty good. Other than some skin tone around his mouth the character is only black and white so relatively easy to paint. I was pretty happy with the results, that is until I tried to attach the head to the body. The damn peg wouldn’t go into the neck hole and I had to wrestle with it for 5 minutes. When I was done the paint was smeared everywhere and the figure’s torso was cracked. I cannot endorse the quality of the product.
When it came time to paint Tiger I made sure to attach the head before I started painting. Tiger is a relatively easy paint job as well because the majority of his costume is white, meaning I didn’t have to paint it at all. I gave him his red boots and gloves then added the orange and black tiger print to his chest and head. It turned out pretty good. The only real issue arose when I tried to dab some white paint on his head for his eyes. The provided brush isn’t very fine so he’s got some big blotchy eyes right now. I might attempt to fix it later but it’ll have to be good enough for now.
The body type is decent and it’s to scale with G.I. Joes and Marvel Universe figures so I can display him amongst them. The articulation is pretty good but I’m too scared to pose him out of fear of rubbing his paint off. These things definitely would not make good play toys, at least not using the products provided. Maybe with some better paint and a sealer this thing could endure some handling. As is I will delicately place this guy in a display case. It’s far from perfect but it’s the best custom action figure that I’ve ever made and it’s of a character I created when I was 11 years old so that’s pretty cool. I give this figure an extremely biased 10 out of 10.
As you may be aware it was my birthday last Thursday. Vanessa came through in true stellar girlfriend fashion by getting me a ton of cool stuff including the recently reviewed Annihilator figure. We celebrated my birthday quietly with a dinner out and then a night in together. It was very nice. However I’m the type who likes to milk his birthday for all that it’s worth. I’m not fishing for presents or anything I just like having an excuse to party with my friends and what better excuse is there than my creation. Part 3 of my birthday will be transpiring this coming Sunday. That celebration will be with family only. You see my brother Doug’s birthday is on February first so my family tends to do a dinner get together somewhere in between out two actual birthdays. Part 2 of my birthday went down this past Saturday. We reserved the lower floor of a sweet local bar called Maxwell’s Plum. It’s actually in the same building as my comic store, Strange Adventures. On a sad side note the building is set to be demolished and so both business will have to move in the near future.
Anyhoo, the party on Saturday was a great success with a number of friends showing up to have a drink or two with me. All I wanted was to enjoy their company but a few of my closest friends bought me some gifts. Miguel got me the Jurassic Park blu-ray trilogy along with a $30 gift card to Strange Adventures and a cheese slice (don’t ask). My buddy Andrew bought me a really nifty action figure customizing set (stay tuned for a home made action figure review) and he bought me this guy: Metalhead.
The first Metalhead toy was released back in 1989 during the first generation of TMNT mania. I was already 11 when that figure came out and I was already losing interest in the line. Doug and I had the entire first wave of figures but only 1 or 2 beyond that. My little brother Brian began collecting turtle toys after we lost interest but even he never had Metalhead. I remember thinking the vintage toy was pretty cool at the time, just not cool enough for me to buy for myself.
The ninja turtles have died off in popularity and been revived a couple of times since then and I never paid much attention to them. I liked the classic look of the 80s cartoon/Archie comics and didn’t care for the constant re-imaginings. I’m not sure what it was about the 2012 designs that spoke to me but as soon as I saw the turtles most recent make over I loved it. I think the turtles look better now than they ever have before. I’ve tried watching the new cartoon but can’t get into it but that won’t stop me from buying some of the toys. I bought up all 4 turtles from the first wave but passed on Shredder, April, Krang and the others. For whatever reason none of the other character’s new looks appealed to me; only that of the turtles like Leonardo and Michelangelo.
I really didn’t plan on buying to many more figures from this new series, perhaps only favorites from my youth like Be-Bop, Mondo Gecko and Baxter Stockman. Metalhead was not on my radar at all. He never even occurred to me as a character I would want in this new style. However, like the 4 turtles, as soon as I saw pictures of the new Metalhead online I absolutely loved it.
I think this design is light years better than the ’89 original. This toy looks totally badass. His articulation is pretty limited which is disappointing but you can still get him into some dynamic poses. The missile launching hand gimmick does little for me but the figure doesn’t look bad when the missile is loaded into his arm. The manhole cover as a shell is awesome and I like his kneepads which kinda resemble the Punisher’s skull logo for some reason. If this is a sign of things to come I fear I may be spending more dough on this line than I had originally planned. 9 out of 10. Thanks Andy.
If you’ve read any of my previous MOTU Classics reviews than you know that I love the line. Other than a few loose joints and wonky articulation the line is damn near perfect. The toys are durable, they’re the perfect size to play with or to display, the characters are diverse, the likenesses are great and there’s a ton of them to collect. I pity all the kids out there who don’t know that this amazing toy line exists. As the line has matured Mattel has branched out from simply adding more standard action figures to the line. They’ve added creatures, beasts, giants, vehicles and soon even a castle to expand the universe. Every time they try something new it impresses me and makes the line that much better.
Well their latest offering is truly impressive. This bad boy showed up in the mail today. Allow me to introduce you to GRANAMYR, the largest action figure in my collection. This guy is 23 inches tall. That makes him taller than Galactus and Unicron and those guys eat planets. This thing is gigantic, you should’ve seen the size of the box he came in. The figure was packaged disassembled and had to be built up by me once I opened him up otherwise the box would’ve been much bigger. I had to add the legs, tail, chest, arms, wings, and then the head to complete the figure. It only took about a minute to do and he snaps together nice and firm. His joints are tight which allows for him to hold a number of poses. The figure is so top heavy though that he can’t be posed standing upright without support. I will probably display him in the crouched position with his knees up as he sits nice and solid like that.
The sculpting on this guy is phenomenal. Every inch of his skin is detailed with scales and cracked skin. His hands have so many line details that I could give him a palm reading. I love the pointed devil-like tip at the end of his tail. Granamyr shares a number of details with Drageo-Man who was released in 2012. I’m not sure if they’re supposed to be related in some way but it wouldn’t surprise me. Both are red dragon men with yellow eyes and leathery wings. In fact I’m pretty sure the wings used here are the same ones that were used on Drageo-Man. It makes for a rather comical appearance as I find it unlikely these little wings could ever lift this behemoth off the ground. When I first saw pictures of this figure online I thought I would probably pass on it because of it’s comical nature. Granamyr apparently appeared in several episodes of the 80s MOTU cartoon and though he looks familiar to me I’d be lying if I said I remembered him from those episodes. As such I have no real nostalgic connection to the character either. So not being familiar with him, and with the images I saw online striking me as rather silly looking, he came across like a gag character. I imagined him to be a bit of a doofus. Then again most of the villains in the old series were portrayed as bumbling fools so i’d say it was a fair assumption.
As the figure’s December 15th release date loomed closer I decided to read up on the character to aid me in making my final decision whether to purchase him or not. These figures sell out quickly on release day and quickly jump up in price on the secondary market so if I was to get him it was best that I buy him from Mattel directly on the day of release. There’s nothing worse than passing on a figure then reading an amazing review about it after the fact only to realize that its no longer available. So through the magic of the internet I discovered that Granamyr wasn’t a bumbling doofus at all, but rather a wise and merciful ancient dragon. His back story intrigued me enough to give the toy a second look. Early online reviews convinced me to shell out the $80 needed to purchase this big fella and I’m glad I did. This figure stands out as a true conversation piece in my room filled with hundreds of toys.
As impressive as the massive body sculpt is I think the head is the crown jewel. It has so much detail and personality: the jagged exposed teeth, the furrowed brow, the loose skin under the chin, it’s excellent. The eyes are surrounded by a ton of wrinkles which really sell the age and wisdom of this character. The purple helmet is a nice finishing touch and it compliments the purple paint on his belly. His red body has the perfect amount of highlights to make this thing look believable. The Four Horsemen have killed it again. Bravo. 10 out of 10.
Just look at the size of this thing when compared to other action figure lines. The Beast Saga, G.I. Joe and Ninja Turtle are completely dwarfed by it. The Mer-Man heralds from the same toy line so you can see how large the character is supposed to be by comparison. Even my 12″ Joker and the King of Monsters don’t come close to matching this figure in size. Godzilla can practically walk between his legs.
I’m sure even the most casual G.I. Joe fan remembers the silver headed Destro. Though he was usually seen at Cobra Commander’s side they were uneasy allies at best. Destro was actually an arm’s dealer with no real allegiance to Cobra. His weapon manufacturing company, M.A.R.S. (Military Armaments Research System) sold to Cobra because it was profitable to do so. Destro was often seen going into battle on Cobra’s behalf but it was usually for his own reasons, sometimes just demonstrating the effectiveness of a new weapon on the battlefield in order to sell a bunch of them. Destro actually had an army all his own known as the Iron Grenadiers. Though Destro was introduced way back in 1983 it wasn’t until 1988 that we first got a glimpse of his private army. A second version of Destro was released in ’88, this time he donned a gold helmet, a red cape and an overall more regal outfit with a red, black and gold theme throughout. That year we also got a figure of an Iron Grenadier, one of Destro’s personal body guards who was similarly dressed and colored. This black red and gold color scheme looked great and really differentiated Destro’s troops from Cobras. It’s a shame it was abandoned so quickly. Destro’s forces quickly grew over the next year or two with the release of Iron Grenadier frogmen, vehicle drivers, and pilots. 1989 brought us Destro’s elite airborne assault troopers, the Annihilators.
Destro’s regal color scheme had been thrown out the window by this time. The Annihilators were loudly decked out in orange and purple outfits. My brother Doug owned the 1989 Annihilator. The figure wasn’t exactly menacing looking but he looked pretty cool. I always found his head to be rather duck shaped and his outfit made him look like a bit of a dandy with those braided ropes crossed on on his chest; and then of course there was the bright colors. The coolest thing about the character was his accessories. He came with a helicopter bladed backpack that worked like a jet pack of sorts; a hele-pack. It was pretty nifty.
Ever since their initial release the Annihilators have never been revisited. There were no Annihilators released during the new sculpt era of the early 2000s and they were not included in the 25th anniversary modern sculpt line either. In fact hardly any of the Iron Grenadier specialty soldiers have ever been released again, only the original trooper. Annihilator was a figure I always wanted and even though I rarely buy vintage Joes anymore I did recently purchase a 1989 Annihilator for a couple of bucks online. He didn’t come with his hele-pack but at least I finally had the figure.
Well since Hasbro didn’t seem like they were going to give us a modern Annihilator figure any time soon the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club took it upon themselves to provide fans with one. At the 2012 Joe Con they surprised fans with a few exclusive figures that had not been previously announced. One of those surprises was an army building 3-pack of Annihilators sculpted in the modern style.
I really wanted one of these but finding them online at a reasonable price was tough because most sellers were selling the 3 identical figures packaged together and asking more than I was willing to spend. Luckily I have an awesome girlfriend. I highly recommend anyone without a girlfriend get one because they really come in handy sometimes. It was my birthday yesterday and Vanessa came through BIG TIME. Not only did she get me an Annihilator but she also got me another rare even more desirable Con exclusive Joe figure, plus a bunch of booze, candy, clothes, a bluray and a frig’n tablet. Can I get a slow clap for Vanessa please.
So what are my thoughts on this new Annihilator? He’s pretty sweet. First off the Collector’s Club does not have the resources to create brand new figures from scratch so they have to make do with pieces previously released by Hasbro for the most part. This figure is made up entirely of re-used parts, a true Franken-Joe as we call them. He borrows parts from Snake-Eyes, Snow Job and Air-Viper. His head is the most obvious borrowed piece, it was originally used on the 25th anniversary release of Lamprey. Even Annihilator’s hele-pack is borrowed from another figure. The Collector’s Club has been at this a while now and has a real knack for choosing just the right parts to create something new and cool. This figure is far from an exact update of the ’89 figure but if you didn’t have the old figure in front of you to compare it to you’d probably have a hard time picking out what was changed. The orange and purple color scheme is still intact but it’s much more subdued. I would’ve preferred brighter colors but the new colors are much more believable. The removable web gear on this guy does a good job at recreating the purple vest of the original but improves on the braided rope design by adding a holstered pistol instead.
I also would’ve preferred if this figure did not have a see through visor. The clear purple glass helps to make this figure more believable but I generally don’t like being able to see my Cobra troopers’ faces. It would be cool if he had a solid colored visor that was removable to reveal his face but I wish there was more mystery to this guy’s visage. I thought the same thing when this head was originally released as the head of the Lamprey. Overall this figure is pretty rad. I probably wouldn’t be as stoked about it if it was a standard release figure available at Wal-Marts everywhere but when you factor in his rarity this guy becomes hella cool. 9 out of 10.
For Christmas this year Vanessa went all out and got me the entire set of Combaticons, the military themed sub-team of the Decepticons who merge to become Bruticus. (My poor spell check was working overtime on that last sentence) I promptly reviewed Bruticus and he even became a late addition to my Top 12 Action Figures of 2012. Today I shall be reviewing one of Bruticus’s arms, or Blast Off as I’m sure he prefers to be called.
In my Bruticus review I mentioned how the merged figure was pretty awesome but not all of the individual parts lived up to their potential. The two figures I was most looking forward to, Swindle and Brawl, ended up being the most disappointing. They had potential, as they were reminiscent of the vintage versions with some tweaked detail and articulation however they came across as rather cheap and poorly constructed. The leader of the team Onslaught was quite well done and was also reminiscent of the original toy.
The resemblance to the vintage 80s toy, or more accurately the 80s cartoon design, is very important to me. As I’ve stated here before I was really only into Transformers for the first few years of the line. Those early figures have become known as Generation One (G1). I pretty much lost interest after a ton of my favorite characters got killed off in the 1987 animated movie. Many G1 names have been reused by Hasbro over the years and slapped onto robots who look nothing like the G1 character. The name alone isn’t enough to reel me in, I want modern versions of the G1 characters I loved as a kid. For example, Ratchet will always be a white ambulance mini-van to me, not some douchey green truck. This is why I love the “Generations” line of Transformers toys so much, they’re classic characters, presented in their classic looks, with the benefit of modern day sculpting and articulation. So I don’t know why the other two members of the Combaticons, Vortex and Blast Off came out looking the way they did.
Vortex was a gray military helicopter in the 80s, now he’s a red and purple space chopper. And Blast Off was a brown space shuttle in the 80s, now he’s a purple flying whatchamacallit. The changing of the alt modes actually doesn’t bother me at all. All these designs are based off of the “Fall of Cybertron” video game which features Transformers before they arrived on Earth. Therefore they all transform into crazy Cybertronian versions of the alt modes we’re used to. I actually think some of the Cybertronian alt modes are an improvement over the vintage vehicle designs. What bothers me about this Blast Off is that even his robot mode doesn’t look anything like the vintage character design. There’s no reason for a Transformers robot mode to change when he moves from planet to planet. If the video game designers had radically altered all of the Combaticons that would have been fine, I just wouldn’t have bought them because they wouldn’t have been “my” Combaticons. What I don’t understand is why they would stick closely to the vintage robot designs of all but one member. Even with Vortex’s crazy new red and purple color scheme I can accept him as G1 Vortex because he’s got recognizable traits in robot form. But Blast Off here might as well be an entirely different character than his vintage counterpart.
The body shape is way off, the colors are off (though vintage Blast Off did have a purple chest) and the biggest offense is how off his head design is. If the head looked like the vintage head I would forgive all else but by placing a new head on there the designers have erased all connections between this toy and “my” Blast Off. And by “my” Blast Off I mean the one I read about in Marvel comics or the one I grew up watching speaking in a british accent on the animated series. I never actually owned the vintage Blast Off toy; but Doug did.
So now that I’ve ranted about the re-design and the color change and the unrecognizable head you’ve probably guessed that I hate this figure. Well the thing is I actually don’t. I kinda like it. I think the weird drill looking spaceship mode makes for a cool Cybertronian alt mode for the character. While the purple is an odd choice that diminishes the Combaticons WWII inspired color scheme, it is a nice purple and looks good on this toy. The new head, while different, is still pretty cool. And the overall body design is pretty sweet too. I absolutely love how those rocket engines form massive spiked shoulder pads; they look super cool. I dig that he comes with two guns as well because he looks pretty bad ass when he’s double fisting it. His lower half is a little scrawnier than I’d like but he still stands up alright on his own.
Sure I wish he looked more like classic Blast Off but I have to admit this is a decent redesign of the character. And considering how all his teammates look as they should it actually makes it easier to accept him as the original Blast Off. 7 out of 10.
Back in September I reviewed the Crimson H.I.S.S Tank which came with a new class of driver known as the Crimson Horsemen. I’m much more of an action figure guy than a vehicle guy so I like to review figures separate from the vehicles they come packaged with to make sure that the figures get their due. The Cobra HISS tank is my favorite Joe vehicle and I’ve reviewed a number of variations of it on this site. I avoid buying vehicles whenever I can because they’re pricey and they take up lots of room but I can never resist a new HISS tank. I like the classic black ones best but I’ve acquired quite the rainbow brigade of HISS tanks over the years. The red makes perfect sense as the terrorist organization known as Cobra has always had a “crimson” division of elite troopers; most notably the Crimson Guard. I technically haven’t reviewed any Crimson Guard figures yet but you can check out my Agent Faces review if you’re not familiar with them.
The Crimson Guard are described on their file card as follows: “All “Siegies” must hold a degree in either law or accounting as well as being in top physical condition. Crimson Guardsmen are too precious to be wasted on the conventional battle field. They are dispersed about the country in deep cover, assuming normal appearances and life-styles. Watch out. That friendly new neighbor of yours might just have a red uniform hanging in his closet….”
Now when it comes to the Crimson Horseman that was included with the 2011 Crimson HISS tank his file card reads: ” CRIMSON HORSEMEN are part of the CRIMSON GUARD. CRIMSON HORSEMEN specialize in mobile combat tactics. They prefer tanks because of their strength, armor and weapons, but they can turn even the most humble vehicle into a weapon of destruction. They are highly trained in many disciplines and can switch from aggressive infantry fighters to clandestine operatives with ease.“
I don’t know if that makes any sense to me. Why would Cobra Commander stick his highly educated deep cover agents on the front lines? Even if they are in tanks. Because I’ve seen enough episodes of the cartoon to know that it doesn’t take much to blow a HISS tank to kingdom come.
The Crimson Horsemen bear almost no resemblance to the Crimson Guard. The only similarities that I notice are the red uniforms and maybe the mouth piece a little bit. Though the mouth piece reminds me more of a Techno-Viper or even an Imperial Storm Trooper. I’m not sure how I feel about this figure. It’s more real-word looking than many other Joe figures but it’s also kind of non-sensical looking. All the pouches and armor plating make sense I guess but I’m not sure why he has so many straps all over himself. And the red flak vest with all the compartments looks to me like a bad knock-off of MJ’s “Beat It” jacket. And then his helmet is akin to a motorcycle helmet. The large visor is probably practical for visibility purposes, at least it would be if he hadn’t painted a giant Cobra logo right in the middle of it. I’m always happy to welcome new troops into my Cobra ranks but I think this guy is more “miss” than “hit”. I quite like the helmet design so hopefully we see it again somewhere down the line without the silly logo. In the mean time Hasbro please package all future HISS Tanks with the proper classic HISS driver. 5 out of 10.